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Language Issues

A Pilot English in the Major Project with the Faculty of Science


Abstract

This TDG project conducted three rounds of an English in the Major intervention integrated into an existing year-long course in Chemistry taken primarily by Year 3 undergraduate students the products of which are a presentation and a 5,000 word report about an individual research project. The products require use of subject-specific language and a specialist genre. The TDG project developed a system of language support which focused on students’ individual language needs in relation to the chemistry products. The students were offered just-in-time language support relevant to their immediate needs.

The first round of the intervention, face-to-face with paper-based support, was not popular. For subsequent rounds a Moodle site was constructed and used for all interactions, submissions, feedback, support materials and suggestions for general language improvement. This method was more popular. Evaluative feedback on the effects of the project from students, staff and the external examiner (who reads students’ final reports every year) was positive. However, the intensive nature of students’ study in their final year makes it a less than optimum time for such an intervention. The lessons learned from this project will be implemented in other English-in-the-Discipline courses and the materials produced will be re-used elsewhere.

Principal Investigator

Dr. D.P. Gardner, Centre for Applied English Studies, Faculty of Arts Contact

Project level

University-level project

Project Completion

March 2011

Deliverables

  1. A custom built online system for interaction between teacher and students using a Moodle-based interface. This system provides: an individualized learning experience for each student; direct access for participating students to copies of their oral and written work accompanied by individualized language feedback; language support materials focused within the discipline; links to external, more generalized, sources of language support; direct access to the language teacher; record-keeping of all transactions within the system; and direct delivery of all interactions to students through email.
  2. A system of video support for oral presentations. Student presentations are videoed and made available with feedback only to the presenter in the style of an individual teacher-student consultation.
  3. A system of individualized feedback for written report drafts. Students receive individually annotated copies of their drafts for the CHEM3105 project report with accompanying notes and links to specialized helpsheets.
  4. Custom-written helpsheets for project report writing. These focus on the most common errors in CHEM3105 students’ work and take examples from their own work to show errors, explanations and corrections. These helpsheets are referenced in individual feedback to students on their draft reports.
  5. Custom-written helpsheets for CHEM3105 oral presentations. These focus on common errors, explain how to overcome the errors and are referenced in individual feedback to students about their oral presentations.
  6. Custom-written online interactive activities for planning a presentation focusing specifically on the style of presentation required from CHEM3105 students.

(The above deliverables are not all part of a Moodle website which contains students’ work so it is not open-accessible.)

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